Remodelers Corner: Jan/Feb 2013

remodelers-cornerAs a young girl living in the Twin Cities, Cindy Rapp often visited the rural Rochester home of her aunt and uncle, Paul and Marie Hennessey.

“I remember running through the pasture, swinging on the porch swing and playing with the kitties in the barn,” Cindy recalls about the 150-year-old home her relatives owned. “My Uncle Paul would open the hatch to the cistern in the kitchen floor and tell me, ‘that’s where they throw naughty kids.’”

Years later, Cindy and her husband, Bill, learned that her relatives’ 1861 limestone farmhouse was going up for auction. Cindy was interested in buying it, but Bill had reservations about updating the interior to make the old home as comfortable as the new one they had built nearby. So, Bill challenged Cindy to come up with a design to remodel the home that would parallel the accommodations they had in their existing home.

“Family members told me I was crazy and the house wasn’t worth saving,” says Cindy, “but my son Jeff said he knew I had a vision and that my visions seem to work.”

Eventually, Cindy arrived at an acceptable floor plan and, along with the promise of a tractor for Bill, went to the auction and bought the house.

To make her vision a reality, Cindy needed a contractor. She chose Les Radcliffe of Radcliffe Homes.

“The Rapps wanted to remodel the house with present-day amenities but keep the original look and character as much as possible,” says Radcliffe.

“The fact that the house was built 150 years ago and was still standing was important in and of itself,” says Cindy who wanted the home to appear—at least from the road—as it had originally.

With help from photos Cindy had of the home taken at the turn of the century, Radcliffe began remodeling. He took the interior walls down to beams and stone, updated every room and added a great room, den/bedroom, sewing room, main floor laundry and garage.

A history buff at heart, Radcliffe reveled in the discovery of hand hewn, white oak beams under layers of plaster and paneling. Two of them now serve as beams for the front porch.

“The exterior had little change to it so it was easy to follow the architecture of the original structure,” says Radcliffe.

Limestone walls bearing over a hundred years of exterior elements are now interior walls in the kitchen/dining room and den. The Rapps used some of the stone from an old wall to create a limestone front walk.

“We wanted to expose and use as much of the limestone as we could,” says Cindy. “The stone was actually quarried here. There’s value in retaining historical aspects but you have to be realistic,” says Cindy, who sought to save certain elements of the home without a full-scale preservation. “We knew what we wanted and liked and what needed to be preserved, and we got it.”

“Including a tractor!” noted Bill.